On the 28th of Sivan of this year, Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi, the Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad, turned 71.
Instead of receiving a bouquet of flowers or some other present, Israel’s Ministry of Religions chose to give the Rabbi a different kind of “present,” a letter stating his immediate (forced) retirement from his position as Chief Rabbi of the Lud Valley region and Kfar Chabad. The reason given was, that the law in Israel requires Rabbis to retire at the age of 70.
The letter was greeted by fierce resistance from R’ Yosef Yitzchak Kaminetzky, a resident of Kfar Chabad, who serves as the head of the religious council of Lud Valley, who stated: “It is no secret that Rabbi Ashkenazi is 71 years old, however I was not notified by the Ministry of Religions about the matter, and as far as I am concerned, he still holds the title of Chief Rabbi of ‘Lud Valley’.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by R’ Binyamin Lifshitz, who serves as the mayor of Kfar Chabad: “The Rabbinate of Kfar Chabad was always independent of the state, there have been Chief Rabbis in Kfar Chabad for the past 60 years, before the government recognized them, and Rabbi Ashkenazi will continue serving as the Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad regardless of the opinion of the government.” He added, that to elect a new Chief Rabbi elections have to be made, and “We will not allow elections, we are not looking for a new Chief Rabbi.”
ChabadInfo.com editor researched the “rabbinical age” story and found some startling facts, which hint to the fact that Rabbi Ashkenazi is being discriminated against by the Ministry of Religions. A quick perusal of Chief Rabbis of Israel’s cities found a few Rabbis who crossed the 70-year threshold and still continue to receive funds from the government, and their jobs aren’t threatened in any way:
Rabbi Simcha Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Rechovot holds the title of oldest official Rabbi, with an age of 84.
Not far behind is Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, and formerly the Chief Rabbi of Israel, who is 77.
The renowned Modern-Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who serves as the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, is 74 years old.
And Rabbi Yechiel Abuhatzera, the Chief Rabbi of Ramle, just crossed the threshold, and he is 70 years old.
ChabadInfo.com will continue monitoring the situation and update our readers.
On a humorous note, Rabbi Ashkenazi has a son named Sholom Ber Ashkenazi, who has been writing his father’s Halachic discourses for over 5 years. When news broke that his father might be forced into retirement, WhatsApp groups have been abuzz with the “Breaking News” that he is the chosen replacement…